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Walker, Broncos hand Steelers another loss

Nov 6, 2006 - 12:57 AM PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Javon Walker made a bunch of big plays for the Denver Broncos. The Pittsburgh Steelers made a bunch of turnovers.

Walker caught a pair of 10-yard touchdown passes and raced 72 yards for a score on a reverse and the Broncos forced six turnovers in a 31-20 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It was a rematch of last season's AFC championship game, which was won by the Steelers, 34-17, at Denver.

Acquired last April for a second-round pick, Walker has provided coach Mike Shanahan with the extra playmaker he was missing the last time the Broncos played Pittsburgh.

"I had a lot of fun out there," said Walker, who finished with six catches for 134 yards. "It wasn't until the start of the game that I realized that (cornerback Ike) Taylor was shadowing me. I just tried to execute every play."

Walker's presence made a huge difference for Jake Plummer, who committed four turnovers in last January's loss to the Steelers. This time, Plummer threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns with zero turnovers.

"Javon's a big-play guy," Plummer said. "His run (on the reverse) was one of the best I've seen. He got loose and took off. A sweet run. He's a big-time receiver."

After beating the Broncos in the AFC championship game, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger went on to become the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl last February at the age of 23.

On Sunday, Roethlisberger threw for a career-high 433 yards. But just one of his 38 completions went for a touchdown and he was intercepted three times. Roethlisberger is just 1-6 this season after compiling a 27-4 mark in his first two campaigns.

"The game plan was to go out and throw the ball and I thought we did a good job of it," said Roethlisberger, who completed 38-of-54 passes. "Our guys got open and when they weren't they still made plays for me."

Of Pittsburgh's six turnovers, four came inside the Denver 10-yard line.

Wide receivers Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Cedrick Wilson each fumbled the ball away for the Steelers (2-6), who surpassed their loss total from all of last season (15-5) and slipped four games behind first-place Baltimore in the AFC North.

This marks just the second time the Steelers have started 2-6 under coach Bill Cowher. In 2003, they were 2-6 en route to a 6-10 finish.

"I'm not going to drown in self pity," Cowher said. "Some of the points we gave up were chintzy and it's hard to mount a comeback."

Only the Arizona Cardinals (1-7) have a worse record than the Steelers.

"We just have to take the good with the bad and move on," said Ward, who had seven catches for 127 yards. "In our situation, we just have to jump over some other teams. It's a learning experience. We've just to keep going at it."

Pittsburgh would need to win its remaining eight games to finish 10-6. That record was not good enough to make the playoffs last season.

Cornerback Champ Bailey recorded two interceptions, nickel back Curome Cox had an interception and recovered a fumble and cornerback Darrent Williams recovered two fumbles for the Broncos (6-2), who remain tied with San Diego for first place in the AFC West.

Denver jumped to a 14-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.

On the Broncos' first play from scrimmage, Plummer hit Walker with a 38-yard pass down the left sideline. Three plays later, Plummer connected with Rod Smith on a 16-yard touchdown 3:34 into the game.

Holmes fumbled the ensuing kickoff after being hit by Keith Burns. Williams recovered the fumble and returned it 12 yards to the Pittsburgh 10.

Three plays later, Plummer hit Walker with a 10-yard touchdown just 3:55 into the game.

Cedrick Wilson committed Pittsburgh's second turnover. After catching a 35-yard pass, Wilson fumbled after being hit by safety Sam Brandon and Williams recovered at the Denver 6.

Roethlisberger hit Willie Parker with a 15-yard touchdown pass with 12:42 left in the second quarter to pull Pittsburgh within 14-7.

The Steelers reached the Denver 14 on their next possession, but Roethlisberger had a pass picked off by Bailey at the 3.

"The first intercept was supposed to be a throw away and I didn't get it out of bounds," Roethlisberger said.

Jeff Reed missed a 40-yard field goal attempt wide right with 3:24 left in the second quarter before kicking a 46-yarder on the final play of the half.

On Denver's second play from scrimmage in the second half, Shanahan called a reverse and Walker raced around left end and then darted to the middle for a 72-yard touchdown.

"Give credit to Javon on the reverse," Shanahan said. "They had it stopped and he made a great move. He decided to take it inside, which doesn't happen very often (on a reverse)."

The Steelers reached the Denver 32 on their first possession of the second half, but Roethlisberger threw a long pass that was again intercepted by Bailey at the Denver 3.

Pittsburgh pulled within 21-17 when Parker scored on a three-yard run with 3:32 left in the third quarter.

But Walker caught his second 10-yard scoring pass with 11:16 remaining in the fourth quarter.

"Walker's a good receiver," said Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor. "Just one of those games. You have to respect him. Can't take anything away from him. He's their go-to guy."

Reed kicked a 29-yard field goal with 8:13 left and Jason Elam drilled a 32-yarder with 4:48 remaining for Denver.

The Steelers reached the Denver 11 at the two-minute warning and appeared to score when Ward caught a pass over the middle. But just before Ward reached the end zone, safety John Lynch jarred the ball loose and Cox recovered for the Broncos.

Cox added an interception with nine seconds left.

"We came up with the key turnovers," Shanahan said. "That's a sign of a football team playing for 60 minutes."

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